Apr 5, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Michael Brantley (23) sits at second base after being forced out on a double play in the 12th inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE
Oh baseball, why must you be such a cruel bastard?
The day started out great; after all, it was Opening Day, and the built-in optimism of the day was reinforced when Justin Masterson began to dominate a good Toronto offense. Justin combined strikeouts with economical pitching, and if the game had taken place in June, he probably would have finished the game off. Justin left after eight innings, striking out 10 batters while allowing just one run on two hits and walk. Jose Bautista's solo homer in the fourth inning accounted for the only run, and Adam Lind's double in the second accounted for the only scoring threat against Cleveland's Opening Day starter.
Meanwhile the offense that couldn't seem to score in Spring Training chased Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero after five innings, and would build an early 4-0 lead. Carlos Santana walked to open the second inning, and went to third on a Shelley Duncan double. Kotchman drove Santana in with a groundout, and after Jason Kipnis walked, Jack Hannahan hit a three-run homer to cap the inning.
The Indians wouldn't score after that, but the way Masterson was pitching, it didn't seem it would matter. But it did matter, thanks to Chris Perez. Chris had missed most of spring training with an oblique injury, and although he had gotten into several games in the final week of Cactus League play, he was clearly not in regular season form when he came to the mound in the ninth. His fastball didn't have its normal life, and he was wild in and out of the strike zone. He allowed the first two in the Toronto order to reach, then he coaxed a long fly out from Jose Bautista. A run would score, but now there was one out and a runner at second. Perhaps Chris would settle down after this? No. He walked Adam Lind, and then gave up a game-tying two-run double to Edwin Encarnacion. That double just barely missed clearing the left field wall, and knowing what we know now, it might have been better had the ball cleared the fence.
Then: an agonizing seven innings of offensive ineptitude, with just a couple interludes of promise. The 12th inning was the closest the Indians came to winning the game, as thanks to two walks and a single, the Indians loaded the bases with one out. Toronto manager John Farrell took out Eric Thames, his left fielder, and replaced him with....Omar Vizquel, who became a fifth infielder. Asdrubal Cabrera would play right into the Farrell's gamble, hitting the first pitch he saw to shortstop for an inning-ending double play. The Indians would not mount a rally of any substance again.
Meanwhile, another Perez, Toronto's Luiz Perez, who had given up a walk-off home run to Travis Hafner last season, saved the game for the Jays. He was the sixth pitcher out of the bullpen when he entered the game in the 12th inning, and after inducing Cabrera's double play, would pitch the 13th, 14th, 15th, and one batter into the 16th. The Indians, who were in better shape pitching-wise thanks to Masterson's eight strong innings, would try to squeeze three innings from newly-acquired Jairo Ascensio, but after walking the leadoff batter and bungling a run-and-hit play, threw a pitch right into J.P. Arencibia's wheelhouse. The Indians went relatively meekly in the bottom of the inning to cap off the five-hour cometragedy.
Today's Opening Day marathon set a major-league record by length in innings; the previous record also involved the Indians, and that one was a loss as well; the Tribe lost to the Tigers in 15 innings in 1960. Omar!'s two-thirds of an inning as an outfielder playing the infield marked only the second he'd played an outfield position; he played an inning in right field on August 31, 1999 (the Indians scored 10 runs in the 8th inning to stun the Angels 14-12).